As the latest breakout performer in a long line of Steelers outside linebackers, LaMarr Woodley(notes) is used to inflicting pain.
And now, with the defending Super Bowl champions needing help from the New England Patriots and Cincinnati Bengals to qualify for the postseason, Woodley wants all of us to feel his pain?
“All of them will lay down,” Woodley told reporters after practice Wednesday, referring to New England, Cincinnati and any other team which, by winning, could help the Steelers break out of a seven-team logjam to claim one of the AFC’s two wild-card berths. “No one wants to see Pittsburgh in it. That’s just how it is. … Everybody knows that we’re a dangerous team once we get into the playoffs.”
Woodley’s Steelers are once again in danger of missing the playoffs one season after winning the Super Bowl.
I have two immediate reactions to Woodley’s words.
First, allow me to break out the violins.
To borrow from the great John McEnroe, You cannot be serious.
Look, I agree with Woodley that the Steelers, in theory, could be a dangerous team if they sneak into the postseason. And it’s entirely possible that Patriots coach Bill Belichick and Bengals coach Marvin Lewis, as is their prerogative, will elect to rest their top players for part or all of the games that have little bearing on their respective playoff fates, which could doom Pittsburgh’s cause.
But this whole everyone-is-plotting-to-deny-the-Steelers-their-rightful-place-in-the-postseason theory, one which some have cited as a possible impetus for the Indianapolis Colts’ controversial decision to pull Peyton Manning(notes) and other starters in the third quarter of last Sunday’s game against the Jets?
To the Steelers and those who support them, I say: Get over yourselves. In fact, I’d say the same thing to the teams with whom they’re competing.
It’s time for a reality check. There are 16 teams in the AFC, and 12 of them – Pittsburgh included – have no business making the playoffs, period.
If justice prevailed, the four runaway division winners – Indy, San Diego, Cincy and New England – would all receive first-round byes and go straight to the divisional round, while the Steelers and the six others still mathematically alive for wild-card berths would finish their seasons on Sunday and go away until September.
At best, the AFC’s fifth and sixth seeds will finish 9-7. It’s even possible that Tennessee, which has already been mathematically eliminated, could join seven other competitors in an eight-way tie at 8-8. That’s just nasty.
So put your conspiracy theories aside, and allow me to explain to Steelers fans – and those of the other six teams with whom they’re vying for wild-card berths – why their team has no right to complain about anything. In alphabetical order:
• Baltimore Ravens: To its credit, this team beat the Chargers way back in Week 2 and suffered close defeats to the Vikings, Colts, Patriots and Bengals. But the Ravens could have set themselves up with a victory over the Steelers last weekend and were abysmal in the fourth quarter, with a touchdown called back due to penalty and another easy score squandered when their top receiver dropped a pass in the end zone And they’ll still get in if they can beat the Raiders in Oakland on Sunday. If they can’t do that, why are we even having this conversation?(I so agree with this)!
• Denver Broncos: Let’s put aside the fact that, after starting 6-0, the Broncos have lost seven of their past nine games. I’d like to focus on one result in particular: A 20-19 home defeat to the Raiders two weeks ago in which Denver’s D failed to hold a late lead against JaMarcus Russell(notes). Enough said. Josh McDaniels’ team also lost to the Washington Redskins and got pounded by two other wild-card aspirants, the Ravens and Steelers.
• Houston Texans: I’ve talked about how this team is the NFL’s biggest tease, and the fact that it got swept by the Jaguars, who have no quality victories all season, tells you all you need to know. And if the Texans are edged out in a tiebreaker by the Jets, perhaps their fans should remember the 24-7 thumping Houston took, at home, against Rex Ryan’s team in the season opener.
• Jacksonville Jaguars: Amazingly, this team is still alive at 7-8. Please, make it stop. The Jags’ best victories this season were the aforementioned triumphs over the Texans and a Nov. 15 squeaker over the Jets. Given a chance to legitimize their playoff push last Sunday in New England by beating a team that’s actually good, they fell behind 35-0 and got smoked by the Pats. Oh, and the Jags lost to the Seahawks. By a score of 41-0. Atrocious.
• Miami Dolphins: Another 7-8 team that has yet to be officially eliminated, though it essentially shut it down in the first half of last Sunday’s game against the Texans, falling behind 27-0. Way to seize the moment, guys. The Dolphins lost to the Bills, 31-14, in late November and completely choked against the Saints five weeks earlier, blowing a 21-point lead. They are the essence of illegitimate.
• New York Jets: If Rex Ryan’s team makes the playoffs, he should get down on his knees and thank the football gods for his good fortune. First his inconsistent team, in its own stadium two weeks ago, allowed the already eliminated Falcons to drive 73 yards in the final minutes to steal a 10-7 victory. Then, with the Jets trailing the Colts by five in the third quarter last Sunday, Indy coach Jim Caldwell essentially sent them a life raft by calling in rookie quarterback Curtis Painter(notes) and the second-stringers. And now, thanks to NBC’s decision to move New York’s game with the Bengals into the Sunday night slot, Ryan may get lucky once more: Depending upon what happens with the Patriots earlier Sunday – and, realistically, how much Lewis cares about getting the third seed, as opposed to the fourth seed – the Jets may face Cincy’s B-team, too. If they still can’t get into the playoffs, what was the point?
• Pittsburgh Steelers: OK, here’s why Woodley makes me roll my eyes. Of all the wild-card contenders, the Steelers have arguably done the most to create their own predicament, and have wasted the most chances to overcome those self-inflicted wounds. Despite losing to the Bears in Week 2, Mike Tomlin’s team was 6-2 at midseason and looked like a legitimate threat to repeat. Then Pittsburgh lost five consecutive games, including setbacks to the Chiefs (blech), the Raiders (ouch) and the Browns (ooof). Really? Then, it took a last-second, complete-by-inches touchdown pass against the Packers to keep the dream alive, followed by the Ravens’ previously discussed implosion last weekend. If Pittsburgh wins in Miami on Sunday, it will need help from the Patriots, Bengals, Raiders and/or Chiefs (who face the Broncos) in various combinations. And the Steelers might get it. But they don’t deserve it. None of these teams does
AFC wild-card contenders unworthy of berths - NFL - Yahoo! Sports